A man from Wiltshire made the 1,098 mile journey to Tuscany on Sunday to watch Italian minnows San Donato Tavarnelle after he discovered the club on Football Manager.
Jedd Cooley, 28, has taken one of Italy’s smallest professional clubs from Serie C – Italy’s third division – to the heights of Champions League football in the virtual world.
He first got in touch with San Donato Tavarnelle on Instagram in November to ask whether it was possible to buy a replica shirt.
And both parties kept in touch before Jedd decided to visit the rural area of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa with his pregnant wife, Lucy, to attend their Serie C clash against Siena.
After a two-hour train ride from Pisa, the couple eventually made an appearance at the 4,500 capacity ‘Brilli Peri’ stadium in Montevarchi, where they bumped into a host of familiar faces [well, for Jedd anyway].
The 28-year-old met president Andrea Bacci and honorary president Fabrizio Fusi before posing for a picture with coaching staff members Marco Ghizzani and Daniele Buzzegoli.
He also got a snap with ‘machine gun’ Edoardo Marzierli and Leonardo Ubaldi, two of his favorite players from the San Donato team.
Eventually, the home side could only pick up a 1-1 draw against Siena but for Jedd, it was an experience he will never forget.
“It all started on Football Manager. I took San Donato Tavarnelle because they wear the same colours as the amateur club where I play, Dilton Marsh Wanderers,” Cooley told Cronache di Spogliatoio.
“I went on with the seasons and now I’m in 2036 and I’ve won everything.”
Going to visit the team you play with on Football Manager has become somewhat of a trend in recent weeks.
James Hammonds, from South Shields, made the 2,600-mile journey to south-west Iceland with his wife and young daughter in March so he could watch Icelandic second division club Grindavík.
James, from South Shields, made the 2,800-mile trip to Grindavik’s stadium with his wife after falling in love with the Icelandic second division side on Football Manager. Now this is a proper holiday https://t.co/MJy6TOSMzW
— Jack Kenmare (@jackkenmare_) March 2, 2023
In the past few months, James has enjoyed a trophy-laden spell with the Lengjudeildin side on FM after his wife, Georgi, picked the club at random when the game was released.
“For the last few years I have been falling out of interest with all things Premier League as the money has gotten more and more outrageous, and the characters that we used to have in the game seem to have disappeared,” James tells SPORTbible.
“When I play Football Manager I prefer to be a random lower league team. I usually pass the laptop to my wife for her to pick a team for me to make the team choice especially unusual and she chose Grindavik.
“My plan was just to turn up and have a wander around the ground and see if anyone was there. I did message in the morning before going just on the off chance that someone might be there to show me around.”